The latest report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is a stark reminder of how Israel’s colonisation process in Palestine has created differences that are irreconcilable with the framework of human rights and international law. In particular, the CERD pointed out the discrimination inherent in Israel’s Nation-State Law, settlement expansion and the apartheid practices faced by Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories.
While the report points out issues that have long been debated, the CERD’s succinct observations enable readers to conceptualise the dynamics that make human rights violations a recurring cycle. Rather than a singular focus on separate issues, such as settlement expansion, the report looks at each strand of discrimination and how this affects the Palestinian population whose right to any recourse is severely restricted due to Israeli impunity.
Meanwhile, another report in Israeli media has attempted to juxtapose international law against the US unilateral decisions as concessions to Israel, in particular when it comes to settlement expansion. The CERD, however, affirms the illegality of settlements as “not only illegal under international law but also an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population.” It also describes Israel’s Nation-State law as elevating settlements to “a national value.” For Israel, though, settlements are defined according to the US-Israeli plan, hence the insistence on contradicting the CERD report by referencing the recent US declaration on settlement expansion.
The UN report also highlights the incessant discrimination against Palestinians and minority groups, as well as how Israel prevents such groups from accessing justice. It also called upon Israel to eradicate “all policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid.”
Throughout the report, it is clear that the historical dispossession of the Palestinian people by Israel is continuing under an assortment of violations, all of which have been discussed regularly, albeit dissociated from the historical context and the wider developments which have led to many divisions among Palestinians, despite them all facing similar circumstances. Settlement expansion — the first symptom of colonial Israel since its inception — is tied to a multitude of violations involving state and settler violence. Appropriating Palestinian territory, as well as the restrictions placed upon Palestinian people, is a precursor to other losses in terms of access to agricultural land and water. The CERD report points towards the seamless actions of state violence through appropriation and displacement, and settler violence against Palestinians, their properties and their land, as a prevailing dynamic that needs to be addressed in order for Palestinians to at least avail themselves of the basic necessities associated with human rights.
However, with Israel always in contempt of international law, holding the colonial-settler state accountable as the CERD has recommended is a futile course of action unless this is backed by the international community. The committee has given Israel a year to submit information regarding the documented violations. Within that year, though, Israel will have committed even more human rights violations that will be addressed statistically for reporting purposes. Recommending that Israel ratifies human rights treaties is only one part of the path towards any possible accountability. It cannot be expected that a colonial-settler entity will ever stick to any human rights framework. The only permanent solution to the absence of any human rights for Palestinians, therefore, is decolonisation; Israel’s colonial-settler occupation must end.